The grit pays off

May 07, 1991

The business community should be pleased with the agreement signed last week between Maryland and the oil-rich nation of Kuwait. The deal, negotiated by Governor Schaefer earlier this aear, gives Maryland companies preferential status as the emirate seeks the goods and services needed to rebuild itself in the aftermath of the gulf war. In addition, U.S. companies shipping cargo to Kuwait will be notified by Kuwaiti officials to route their shipments through the Port of Baltimore or BWI airport. At a time when state revenues are dipping dangerously, the deal could generate millions of dollars in new business for Maryland -- business that could endure long after the recession ends.

Nonetheless, this is not a clear-cut success story. The seeds of the Maryland-Kuwait partnership were planted last winter when the governor, apparently responding to the critical time element, beat a hasty path to the Mideast -- leaving the General Assembly locked in debate over his tax proposals and threatening to cut critical programs and services if they didn't pass. His Mideast trip left a good deal of animosity that still lingers.

Only now, in retrospect, is it clear that Schaefer was under enormous pressure not to go to Kuwait -- not only from legislators who charged that the governor's priorities were skewed but also because his long-time companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, was gravely ill.

It is testimony to Schaefer's determination to get everything he can for the state of Maryland, using every means at his disposal, that despite these personal and political pressures he was able to persuade a hard-eyed customer like Kuwait -- which was being courted by U.S. companies in many other states -- to sign a deal making Maryland its partner in the long process of rebuilding.

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